Banner art by Chelsea Sprauer

Everyone’s heard of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, but how much do you really know about the residents of 221B Baker Street? In addition to four novellas (one of which we covered at GUY.Com), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote five collections of 56 short stories starring the world-famous detective and his faithful associate. We’ll be spotlighting 20 of them, to get you caught up just in time for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. All of these stories are public domain, so find a free copy online and read along!

The Final Problem

Found in: “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”

The Case: Sherlock Holmes is paranoid. He’s spent some amount of time chasing down a criminal mastermind named Professor Moriarty, and now the hunter has become the prey. Holmes leads Watson on a cat-and-mouse chase throughout Europe, ultimately leading to an infamous encounter at Reichenbach Falls.

The Solution: *Sherlock dies. For now.*

Impressions and Fingerprints: Though Moriarty is easily the most famous of Holmes’ adversaries, he only plays a direct role in two of Conan Doyle’s stories (the other being The Valley of Fear, a novella released later). Pretty much everything that we know about Moriarty – his prodigious intelligence, his backstory, his massive criminal network, etc. – comes to us by way of this story. Perhaps even more telling, it comes from the mouth of Sherlock.

In all of Conan Doyle’s written works, never once do Watson and Moriarty ever actually meet face-to-face. Because Watson is our narrator – and because the so-called “Napoleon of Crime” has been strangely absent from Holmes’ cases so far – it’s open to interpretation whether or not Moriarty actually exists. It could be that Holmes (much like Conan Doyle himself) simply invented Moriarty as a convenient excuse to disappear and catch a vacation.

Is it still worth it? Even with the knowledge that the death isn’t permanent, this is a very poignant send-off to the great detective, and it’s still an essential part of the canon.

Part 20: “The Last Bow”
Part 19: “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
Part 18: “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”
Part 17: “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”
Part 16: “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
Part 15: “The Adventure of the Empty House”
Part 14: “The Final Problem”
Part 13: “The Naval Treaty”
Part 12: “The Crooked Man”
Part 11: “The Reigate Puzzle”
Part 10: “The Greek Interpreter”
Part 9: “The Musgrave Ritual”
Part 8: “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
Part 7: “Silver Blaze”
Part 6: “The Five Orange Pips”
Part 5: “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”
Part 4: “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
Part 3: “A Case of Identity”
Part 2: “A Scandal in Bohemia”
Part 1: “The Red-Headed League”